Puyallup residents will see an increase in their utility bills to cover a legal settlement, but for most customers the fee hike won’t be as large as once planned.
And they’ll pay less in total for the settlement.
The City Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday to finalize an ordinance raising the landfill fees starting in March. Councilmen John Knutsen and Rick Hansen voted against; they’ve advocated for other options.
The fees will be used to pay down debt from bonds the city will issue to cover the upfront cost of the roughly $2 million settlement, which stems from a civil lawsuit brought by the owners of two apartment complexes. They alleged a former city landfill contaminated their property.
The council last year agreed to settle the suit.
Under the plan approved Tuesday, residential customers will pay $1.19 more a month in landfill fees, while the monthly amount for commercial containers will rise by $13.91.
The council in split votes in early December gave initial approval to a plan that would have raised the landfill fees $1.60 a month across the board in order to pay the debt on 20-year bonds.
Each customer would have paid $384 in additional landfill fees in total over the life of the bonds, according to information from city staff.
The new plan essentially was finalized Tuesday; it calls for issuing 10-year bonds and making a payment of $450,000 from city coffers. That means the debt will be paid off sooner and residential customers, who make up the bulk of ratepayers, will pay at least $200 less overall.
City staff members recommended the plan after presenting several options, including borrowing from the utility fund. They said doing that would put off needed capital projects.
“We have to listen to our staff,” said Deputy Mayor Tami Brouillet. She was joined by Mayor Kathy Turner and council members Nicole Martineau, Kent Boyle and Don Malloy in voting to finalize the fee ordinance.
The city hasn’t operated landfills for years, but the landfill fees are used to cover costs still associated with the long-closed sites. The existing fees of $1.25 for residential customers and $14.67 for commercial containers aren’t enough to pay the settlement, city staffers have said.
The bond sale is scheduled for Jan. 18.
The settlement payment is due at the end of the month.